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Dr. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (born March 28, 1941 as Jeffrey Lloyd Masson in Chicagomarker, Illinoismarker) is an Americanmarker author, residing in New Zealandmarker. Masson is best known for his conclusions about Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis. In his book The Assault on Truth, Masson argued that Freud may have abandoned his seduction theory because he feared that granting the truth of his female patients' claims that they had been sexually abused would hinder the acceptance of his psychoanalytic methods. (Several Freud scholars have disputed the traditional story that Freud's seduction theory patients reported having been sexually abused in early childhood, the basis on which Masson built his case.) He is a vegan and has written about animal rights.

Life and career

Jeffrey Masson is the son of Jacques Moussaieff, a French Mizrahi Sephardic Jew of Bukharian ancestry, and Diana (Dina) Zeiger from a Ashkenazi strict Orthodox Jewish family. Both of his parents were followers of the Jewish mystic Paul Brunton. Masson's mother later became a follower of British Jewish mystic John Levy. During the 1940s and 1950s, Brunton often lived with them, eventually designating Masson as his heir apparent. In 1956, Diana and Jacques Masson moved to Uruguaymarker because Brunton believed that a third world war was imminent. Jeffrey and his sister Linda followed in 1959.

At Brunton's urging, Masson went to Harvard Universitymarker to study Sanskrit. While at Harvard, Masson became disillusioned with Brunton. Brunton and his influence on the Masson family form the subject of Masson's autobiographical book My Father's Guru: A Journey Through Spirituality and Disillusion. Harvard Universitymarker granted Masson a B.A. in 1964 and a Ph.D. with Honors in 1970. His degrees were in Sanskrit and Indian Studies. While undertaking his Ph.D., Masson also studied, supported by fellowships, at the Ecole Normale Supérieuremarker in Parismarker, the University of Calcutta, and the University of Poona.

Masson taught Sanskrit and Indian Studies at the University of Torontomarker, 1969-80, reaching the rank of Professor. He has also held short term appointments at Brown Universitymarker, the University of California, and the University of Michiganmarker. From 1981 to 1992, he was a Research Associate, Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, at the University of California at Berkeley. He is currently an Honorary Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Aucklandmarker in New Zealandmarker.

Views on the Seduction Theory

In 1970, Masson began studying to become a psychoanalyst at the Toronto Psychoanalytic Institute, completing a full clinical training course in 1978. During this time, he befriended the psychoanalyst Kurt Eissler and became acquainted with Sigmund Freud's daughter Anna Freud. Eissler designated Masson to succeed him as Director of the Sigmund Freud Archives after his and Anna Freud's death. Masson learned German and studied the history of psychoanalysis. In 1980 Masson was appointed Projects Director of the Freud Archives, with full access to Freud's correspondence and other unpublished papers. While perusing this material, Masson concluded that Freud might have rejected the seduction theory in order to advance the cause of psychoanalysis and to maintain his own place within the psychoanalytic inner circle,
after a hostile response from the renowned sex-pathologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing and the rest of the Vienna Psychiatric Society in 1896 - an icy reception from the jackasses, was the way Freud described it later to Fliess

In 1981, Masson's controversial conclusions were discussed in a series of New York Times articles by Ralph Blumenthal, to the dismay of the psychoanalytic establishment. Masson was subsequently dismissed from his position as project director of the Freud Archives. and stripped of his membership in psychoanalytic professional societies. Masson was defended by Alice Millerand Muriel Gardiner ("While striving not to take sides," Gardiner said, "I consider him a good and energetic worker and a worthwhile scholar.")

Masson later wrote several books critical of psychoanalysis, including The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory. In the introduction to The Assault on Truth, Masson admitted that, "My pessimistic conclusions may possibly be wrong. The documents may in fact allow a very different reading." Janet Malcolm interviewed Masson at length when writing her long New Yorker article on this controversy, which she later expanded into In the Freud Archives, a book that also dealt with Eissler and Peter Swales. Masson sued The New Yorker for defamation, claiming that Malcolm had misquoted him. The ensuing trial drew considerable attention. The decade-long, US$10 million lawsuit came to a close in 1994 when the court ruled in the New Yorker 's favor.

In 1985, Masson edited and translated Freud's complete correspondence with Wilhelm Fliess after having convinced Anna Freud to make it available in full. He also looked up the original places and documents in La Salpêtrièremarker Hospital in Parismarker, where Freud had studied with Charcot. Masson writes that the scientific community has been largely silent about his views.

Recent work

Since the early 1990s, Masson has written a number of books on the emotional life of animals, one of which, When Elephants Weep, has been translated into 20 languages. He has explained this radical change in the subject of his writings as follows:

Masson also wrote a book about his new home country, New Zealandmarker, including an interview with Sir Edmund Hillary.

Personal life

Masson is married to Leila Masson, a pediatrician. They have two sons, Ilan and Manu. He also has a daughter, Simone, by a previous marriage. Masson was once engaged to University of Michiganmarker feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon, who wrote the preface to his A Dark Science: Women, Sexuality, and Psychiatry in the Nineteenth Century.

Masson is a vegan.


Jeffrey Masson's grandgrandfather Shlomo Moussaieff was a kabbalist and founder of the Bukharian Quarter in Jerusalemmarker. His grandfather Henry Mousaieff changed his familyname from Moussaieff to Masson. Jeffrey Masson changed his middlename from Lloyd to Moussaieff.

Writings by Masson

  • 1974. "India and the Unconscious: Erik Erikson on Gandhi," International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 55: 519-26. Discussion by T. C. Sinha: 527.
  • 1976. "Perversions-some observations", Israel Ann. Psychiat. rel. Disc., (1976b), 14, 354-61.
  • 1976. (with Terri C. Masson) "The Navel of Neurosis: Trauma, Memory and Denial.", paper presented to the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Society
  • 1978 (with Terri C. Masson), "Buried Memories on the Acropolis. Freud's Relation to Mysticism and Anti-Semitism", International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 59: 199-208.
  • 1980. The Oceanic Feeling: The Origins of Religious Sentiment in Ancient Indiamarker. (Table of contents)
  • 1981. The Peacock's Egg: Love Poems from Ancient India, W. S. Merwin and J. Moussaieff Masson, eds. ISBN 0-86547-059-6
  • 1984. The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory. Farrar Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0-374-10642-8
  • 1984. " Freud and the Seduction Theory A challenge to the foundations of psychoanalysis," The Atlantic Monthly, February 1984.
  • 1985 (editor). The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904. ISBN 0-674-15420-7
  • 1986. A Dark Science: Women, Sexuality and Psychiatry in the Nineteenth Century. ISBN 0-374-13501-0, last edition 1988
  • 1988. Against Therapy: Emotional Tyranny and the Myth of Psychological Healing. ISBN 0-689-11929-1
  • 1990. Final Analysis: The Making and Unmaking of A Psychoanalyst. Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-52368-X, new edition 2003
  • 1993. My Father's Guru: A Journey Through Spirituality and Disillusion, Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-56778-4
  • Dogs Never Lie About Love: Reflections on the Emotional World of Dogs.
  • 1995. When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Life of Animals.
  • The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals.
  • The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats: A Journey Into the Feline Heart. ISBN 0345448820
  • The Cat Who Came in from the Cold. Wheeler. ISBN 1587249146
  • The Emperors Embrace Reflections on Animal Families and Fatherhood.
  • The Evolution of Fatherhood: A Celebration of Animal and Human Families.
  • Raising the Peaceable Kingdom: What Animals Can Teach Us about the Social Origins of Tolerance and Friendship.
  • Lost Prince : The Unsolved Mystery of Kaspar Hauser.
  • Sex and Yoga: Psychoanalysis and the Indian Religious Experience in Vishnu on Freud's Desk: A Reader in Psychoanalysis and Hinduism, T.G. Vaidyanathan & Jeffrey J. Kripal (editors): , Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195658353, Paperback (Edition: 2003)
  • Slipping into Paradise: Why I live in New Zealand. ISBN 0-345-46634-9
  • 2006. Altruistic Armadillos - Zen-Like Zebras: A Menagerie of 100 Favorite Animals. ISBN 978-0-345-47881-8 (0-345-47881-9)
  • See Masson's praise of the book by Luna Tarlo, the mother of Andrew Cohen.
  • 1995, " A Note on U.G. Krishnamurti."

Reviews of his books


  1. Schimek, J. G. (1987). Fact and Fantasy in the Seduction Theory: a Historical Review. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, xxxv: 937-65; Israëls, H. and Schatzman, M. (1993) The Seduction Theory. History of Psychiatry, iv: 23-59; Esterson, A. (1998). Jeffrey Masson and Freud’s seduction theory: a new fable based on old myths. History of the Human Sciences, 11 (1), pp. 1-21; Esterson, A. (2001). The mythologizing of psychoanalytic history: deception and self deception in Freud’s accounts of the seduction theory episode. History of Psychiatry, Vol. 12 (3), pp. 329-352; Eissler, K. R. (2001) Freud and the Seduction Theory: A Brief Love Affair. International Universities Press, pp. 107-117.
  3. John Levy: friend and contrary guru
  4. "Did Freud's Isolation Lead Him to Reverse Theory on Neurosis?" by Ralph Blumenthal, New York Times, August 25, 1981
  5. PSYCHOLOGIE HEUTE, April 1987, P.21, 22: "Im Gegensatz zu manchen Interpreten, die, wie zum Beispiel Marianne Krüll, Marie Balmary oder Jeffrey Masson, Freuds Abkehr von der Wahrheit als Folge seiner Familiengeschichte deuten, sehe ich diesen Schritt als Folge und Ausdruck unserer jahrtausendealten kinderfeindlichen Tradition, in der wir auch heute noch leben. Die Ergebnisse der oben genannten historischen Forscher können trotzdem korrekt sein, aber ich meine, daß es Freud trotz der persönlichen Familiengeschichte möglich gewesen wäre, seiner Entdeckung treu zu bleiben, wenn die Gesellschaft als Ganzes nicht so kinderfeindlich gewesen wäre, wenn schon damals andere, freiere Erziehungsmuster denkbar gewesen wären. Doch zur Zeit Freuds war es noch absolut unmöglich, die Unschuld der Eltern in Frage zu stellen." Alice Miller in interview entitled Wie Psychotherapien das Kind verraten
  6. "Freud Archives Research Chief Removed in Dispute Over Yale Talk" by Ralph Blumenthal, New York Times November 9, 1981.
  7. SMH article October 6, 2007
  8. History of La Salpêtrière
  9. Masson, J., 1990. Final Analysis: The Making and Unmaking of a Psychoanalyst. Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-52368-X.
  10. Masson, J., "A Conversation with a Great Ordinary Kiwi: Sir Edmund Hillary," chpt. 7 in Slipping into Paradise.
  11. [1]
  12. [2]
  14. [3]
  15. Review
  16. Table of Contents

Further reading

External links

From Jeffrey Masson's Website Articles Interviews

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